There were 29 children under 18 on board the Mayflower when the Pilgrims anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor in late 1620. Two (Oceanus Hopkins and Peregrine White), were born on board! The other 27 ranged in age from 1 to 17.
As historian and Director Emeritus of the Pilgrim Society Peggy Baker has noted; “Family is at the heart of the Pilgrim story….that makes Plymouth Colony unique amid a sea of other settlements – English, Dutch, French, and Spanish alike – that were almost exclusively masculine… The Separatist movement, from its earliest beginnings, was built around strong and dedicated families.”
The Pilgrim Church families agreed with the Biblical injunctions that children “honor their father and mother” (Eph. 6:1-4) and parents “lay up” for their children (2nd Cor. 12:14). The laws confirmed this obedience to parents and the reciprocal responsibility of parents to provide health, welfare and education for their children.
Children would do almost everything with their parents, especially in worship, attentively listening to sermons, and working in the home and field. In addition, children played games such as All Hid (hide and seek), Naughts and Crosses (tic-tac-toe), Knickers (marbles), and Hop Frogs (leap frog) to name a few.
The interesting providence is that of the 29 children on the Mayflower, only 6 (21%) died the first winter, whereas 63% of the adults perished. This was noted as providential for the future of the colony and the legacy of their mission. After all, one of the reasons the Pilgrim Church migrated was for the sake of their children. Oh that we might have such a multi-generational vision today!